Barracoon, p.12
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       Barracoon, p.12

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  Kanko (Kêhounco)

  Dennison, Lottie

  Dozier, Clara

  Ely, Horace

  Ely, Matilda

  Johnson, Samuel

  Keeby, Anna (Annie)




  Keeby, Ossa


  Lee, (African) Peter

  Lee, Josephine

  Lewis, America (Maggie)



  Abila (Abilé)

  Lewis, Celia (Celie)


  Oluale (Oloualay)

  Lewis, Charles (Char-Lee)


  Kossola (Kazoola)

  Lewis, Cudjo

  Livingston, John



  Livingston (Levinson),


  Nichol, Lillie

  Nichol, Maxwell




  Jaba (Jabi or Jabar)

  Shade, Jaybee (Jaba)

  Shade, Polly (Ellen)

  Thomas, Anthony


  Thomas, Ellen



  Abache (Abackey)

  Turner, Clara

  Turner, Samuel

  Wigfall (Wigerfall),




  Wigfall (Wigerfall),


  Wilson, Lucy



  Clotilda, The: A 120 81/91-ton schooner built by William Foster in Mobile, Alabama, in 1855. It was 86 feet long, 23 feet wide, and 611/12 feet deep. Two-masted, with one deck, it was built for speed. These types of ships were designed during the years of suppression of the traffic, in order to outmaneuver those ships that were policing the waters. The US Constitution declared those engaged in the illegal importation of Africans into America to be pirates and declared that those apprehended would be charged with piracy—and hanged. In collaboration with Timothy Meaher, William Foster refitted the Clotilda as a “slaver.” Its journey to Africa represented their first smuggling venture, and it would be their last. In March 1860, Foster set sail for Ouidah on the coast of West Africa, where he illegally bought 125 Africans who were held in the barracoons of Dahomey. Fearful of being captured by two approaching steamers, Foster weighed anchor and left fifteen Africans on the beach. After about forty-five days on the Atlantic, Foster docked near Twelve-Mile Island off the Mobile River. After disembarkation of the Africans, Foster burned and scuttled the Clotilda at Big Bayou Canot, in an effort to cover up his piracy. The Wanderer, which transported more than four hundred Congolese captives to Jekyll Island, Georgia, in November 1858, had long been considered the last vessel to import Africans illegally into the United States. With its documented 1860 arrival into Mobile Bay, the Clotilda now holds that unfortunate distinction.

  Illegitimate Trade: A series of constitutional acts transformed trans-Atlantic trafficking from a “legitimate” to an “illegitimate” activity. American participation in trans-Atlantic trafficking can be traced to the colonial era. As the largest trafficking enterprises in the colonies at that time were run out of Rhode Island, the D’Wolf family, headed by James and Charles D’Wolf, ran the largest trafficking enterprise in Bristol, Rhode Island, after the American Revolution. By the end of the eighteenth century, American vessels, along with the British and the Portuguese, would dominate the Atlantic traffic in human beings. In 1794, the US Congress passed legislation that outlawed the building of or fitting out of ships for the purpose of importing Africans into America or for trafficking enterprises in other countries. Penalties ranged from fines of $200 to $2,000. The March 1807 Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves declared all participation in international trafficking to be illegal and abolished the importation of Africans into the United States. Fines for violation were increased to upwards of $20,000 and imprisonment of at least five but not more than ten years. The act was to take effect on January 1, 1808. The 1820 act charged participants in the traffic with piracy, which carried a penalty of death. Although international trafficking had been deemed illegal or “illegitimate,” proslavery adherents continued to engage in it. The United Kingdom also abolished trans-Atlantic trafficking in 1807. In its efforts to suppress the traffic in humans, it encouraged and promoted “legitimate trade” with Africa. Such trade entailed the exchange of “legitimate” commodities from Africa, such as the agricultural exports of palm oil, palm kernels, kola nuts, and ground nuts.

  Jim Crow: Jim Crow refers to the social system that developed in the United States following the Civil War. The name “Jim Crow” is based on a character developed by “the Father of American minstrelsy,” Thomas Rice, who performed in blackface. Rice appropriated the song about Jim Crow from black folklore and created a stereotypical character of blacks as lazy, ridiculous, worthless subhumans. Rice’s derogatory depictions of black people were popular with his white audiences. The name “Jim Crow” then became synonymous with the system of racial segregation that cast blacks as inferior beings while elevating whites as superior. In 1896, the US Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson would sanction Jim Crow. The decision upheld the doctrine of separate but equal, which segregated the races in public spheres and effectively ushered in de jure segregation in American society.

  Krooboys: Krooboys and Kroomen were a group of seafarers and ship laborers who settled along the West African coastline. They originate from the Kru (or Kroo) peoples of the Liberian hinterlands who migrated to the west coast. During the eighteenth century, they worked as sailors and laborers for the British and Europeans in their maritime commerce with West Africa. They worked aboard trafficking vessels and operated as dealers, brokers, and middlemen for those looking to purchase Africans. They were known for their skills in maneuvering canoes filled with people or merchandise through the rough surf, onto the beach, or out to ships.

  Maafa: Marimba Ani defines Maafa as a Ki-Swahili term that means disaster and the human response to it. The term refers to the disruption and uprooting of the lives of African peoples and the continuous commercial exploitation of the African continent—from the fifteenth century to the era of Western globalization. The African Maafa entails the multidirectional, violent, and catastrophic phenomenon that pervaded the entire African continent, not just its western coast. Thus the concept also encompasses the trafficking of Africans across the Sahara, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean, which occurred centuries before the commencement of trans-Atlantic trafficking.

  Middle Passage: The Middle Passage describes the transoceanic route taken by trafficking vessels from the west coast of Africa to the Americas. It also refers to the middle leg of what is called “the triangular slave trade”: Ships originating in England or Europe would sail to the African coast to exchange manufactured goods for African captives; Africans were then sold or exchanged in the Americas for raw materials (cotton, sugar, coffee, tobacco); ships laden with these materials would then make the return journey from the Americas to Europe. The length of the voyage from African shores to ports in the Caribbean and the Americas varied. The voyage from Africa to Brazil would take at least a month. From Africa to the Caribbean or North America could take two or three months. Other variables such as wind, inclement weather, mutiny, rebellion, or escape from other vessels would hasten or retard a ship’s passage.

  Mosé, Fort: In the late 1600s, Africans escaping enslavement in the British colonies settled in Spanish territory near Saint Augustine, Florida. In 1738, the Spanish governor, Manuel de Montiano, fortified the settlement with the construction of Fort Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé, granting the settlers citizenship and sanctuary and thereby establishing the first free black town in North America. The fort would become the northernmost point of Spanish defense against the British, and the townsmen would beco
me members of the Fort Mosé militia. Captain Francisco Menendez, who had escaped enslavement in South Carolina, was appointed as the “chief” of the town. Under his leadership, the Fort Mosé militia, along with Native Americans and the European residents of Saint Augustine, defended the fort against a British attack in 1740. Fort Mosé remained a haven for Africans, African Americans, and Native Americans until the Peace of Paris agreement of 1763 that ceded Florida to the British.

  Orìṣà: In the spiritual traditions of the Yoruba people of West Africa, the supreme deity is manifested as the trinity of Olodumaré, Olofi, and Olorun. The Orìs.à are a reflection of these divine expressions. They represent a pantheon of deities who embody specific qualities of the cosmos. Among the pantheon are Obatalá, Oshún, Yemayá, Changó, Oyá, and Ogún. Traditional ceremonies serve to unite humans with the spirit realm and restore balance between humans and nature. Ancestral reverence is an integral aspect of the tradition. In the Americas, African spirituality was a source of resilience and resistance to the bleak and absurd reality into which African peoples had been forced. The Orìs.à tradition, along with other spiritual traditions of West African peoples, merged with the religious traditions of European Christianity and those of indigenous Amerindians to create new belief systems such as Vodun, Hoodoo, Obeah, Santería, and Candomblé. Zora Neale Hurston investigated and documented these syncretic religions in Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938).

  Roche, Emma Langdon: Emma Roche was born on March 26, 1878, in Mobile, Alabama. She was the daughter of Thomas T. and Annie Laura (James) Roche. Emma Roche was an artist, writer, housekeeper, and farmer. She wrote Historic Sketches of the South in 1914 and illustrated the book with her own drawings and photographs of the residents of Africatown.

  “Slaver”: Trafficking vessels were called “slavers,” because those involved in the trafficking did not see the Africans they transported as human beings, but instead as slaves (i.e., chattel, commodities, cargo, merchandise). And they treated them accordingly. Aboard these vessels Africans experienced shock or melancholia, knowing neither their destiny nor their fate. The holds were dark and fetid. In the beginning of these oceanic voyages, the mortality rate for Africans could be as high as 50 percent. During this period, “tight packing” was a common method of loading Africans into the ships. In order to minimize loss due to high mortality rates, captains had their crew cram as many people as possible into a hold, allowing little room to turn or sit up. On some ships, Africans were laid one on top of the other, stacked like logs. In later centuries, changes in the design of the ships, regulations, and the desire for greater profit would modify the methods used to transport Africans.

  “Slavery”: The term slave originally meant captive, and it was historically associated with the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe, who were conquered by western Europeans in the ninth century and forced into conditions of servitude. The same term has been used in reference to African peoples whom western Europeans pressed into servitude in the Caribbean and the Americas. It has also been used to refer to the condition of servitude practiced in Africa prior to Arab-Islamic and European encroachments into Africa.

  Characteristic features of slavery are that people perceived to be different from the larger society can be subjugated and exploited for their labor; that these people have no rights and are considered property, a thing owned; and that they and their offspring inherit this condition for life.

  In the United States, slavery has been called the Peculiar Institution. As it was elsewhere in the Americas, this institution was violent, inhumane, and racialized.

  “Slavery” (African “Internal Slavery”): Forms of servitude existed in Africa prior to the invasions of Arab Muslims and Europeans—but it was not slavery. Slavery was but one form of servitude or labor practiced in various civilizations from antiquity to the modern day. Serfdom, clientage, wage-labor, pawnship, and communal work represent other kinds and conditions of labor that were practiced. The conditions of labor in ancient or early African society were more characteristic of conditions associated with feudalism, not slavery, and were more aptly described as relationships of dependency.

  Africans in conditions of servitude could be subject to labor others refused to perform, labor that was considered degrading, tedious, or dangerous. They could be subjected to maltreatment and even be used as living sacrifices. But for the most part, Africans in relationships of dependency had rights and maintained their human dignity. After the mid-fifteenth century, the systems of servitude among West Africans were transformed, as trans-Atlantic trafficking became integral to the politics and economy of African societies.

  Trans-Atlantic trafficking also transformed the identity of people on the African continent and their relationship to one another. As people were now perceived as slaves, those outside a particular group—in terms of ethnicity, ideology, or lineage—became subject to capture and deportation. In spite of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the people on the continent, Europeans and Americans referred to them, collectively, as “Africans.” This resulted in the belief that “‘Africans’ sold their own sisters and brothers.” This tendency to generalize the varied ethnic groups as “Africans” has been a continuous source of conflict for the people of Africa and the African diaspora.

  Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: The business of ferrying captive Africans across the Atlantic to other lands for the cultivation of cash crops was initiated by the Portuguese in the mid-fifteenth century. Prince Henrique of Portugal (1394–1460), known throughout Europe as “Henry the Navigator,” knew well of the vast wealth of Africa and Asia. No longer content with negotiating with Moors, Berbers, and Arab middlemen for the goods and people of sub-Saharan Africa, he sought direct access to these continents—not over land, but by sea. Before trade for African bodies was established and regularized, European seafarers engaged in the typical “smash and grab” approach of acquiring Africans for use as slaves. In 1441, the Portuguese seized twelve Africans from the west coast of Africa. Subsequent actions of that sort resulted in retaliation. The Portuguese then established formal compacts with African officials. Portuguese colonists, settled in the island of Madeira, had begun experimentation with the cultivation of sugarcane. Initially, they imported eastern Europeans and Africans to perform this labor. However, Constantinople’s fall to the Turks in 1453 closed the “slave ports” of the Black Sea to western Europeans seeking eastern European slaves. In the aftermath of this turn of events, the majority of the laborers in the cane fields of Madeira came from the African continent. The Portuguese replicated this model of cultivating sugarcane with the labor of Africans in the plantations of the Caribbean and the Americas. Other European nations, England, and the English colonies in North America emulated the Portuguese. Well after the abolition of trans-Atlantic trafficking by most European nations and the United States, the Portuguese would persist in their trafficking enterprises until 1870.


  Alford, Terry. Prince among Slaves: The True Story of an African Prince Sold into Slavery in the American South. New York: Oxford, 1977.

  Andersen, Kristy. Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at de Sun. Directed by Sam Pollard. PBS, American Masters, 2008.

  Ani, Marimba (Dona Richards). Let the Circle Be Unbroken: The Implications of African Spirituality in the Diaspora. Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1992.

  Boyd, Valerie. Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner, 2003.

  Burton, Richard F. A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome, Volume 1. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, [1894] 1966.

  Canot, Theodore, and Brantz Mayer. Adventures of an African Slaver: Being a True Account of the Life of Captain Theodore Canot, Trader in Gold, Ivory and Slaves on the Coast of Guinea. Edited by Malcolm Cowley. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Legacy Reprints, [1854] 2012.

  Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

  Curtin, Philip, ed. Africa Remembered: Narrati
ves by West Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, [1967] 1997.

  Diouf, Sylviane A. Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship “Clotilda” and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

  Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Written by Himself. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, [1788] 1995.

  Forbes, Frederick Edwyn. Dahomey and the Dahomans: Being the Journals of Two Missions to the King of Dahomey, and Residence at His Capital, in the Years 1849 and 1850, Volume 1. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar Reproduction Series, [1851] 2008.

  Foster, William. “Last Slaver from U.S. to Africa, A.D. 1860.” Mobile Public Library, Local History and Genealogy. Mobile, Alabama.

  Frost, Diane. Work and Community among West African Migrant Workers since the Nineteenth Century. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

  Hemenway, Robert. Zora Neale Hurston, A Literary Biography. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980.

  Hill, Lynda Marion. Social Rituals and the Verbal Art of Zora Neale Hurston. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1996.

  Hurston, Lucy Anne, and the Estate of Zora Neale Hurston. Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Doubleday, 2004.

  Hurston, Zora Neale. “Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo.’” Typescripts and handwritten draft. 1931. Box 164-186, file #1. Alain Locke Collection, Manuscript Department, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

  ———. “Communications,” Journal of Negro History 12 no. 4 (October 1927).

  ———. “Cudjo’s Own Story of the Last Slaver,” Journal of Negro History 12, no. 4 (October 1927). /stable/2714041.

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